After all of my time in insurance and personal injury work, I thought I had seen it all. Then, out of the UK comes this story.
It appears that a UK insurer now runs its own medical clinic. They will treat their own policyholders as well as people who are injured as a result of their policyholders negligence. (This second group of people are called claimants.) Their admitted purpose is to reduce payments, reduce litigation and reduce costs. They claim that they can treat people faster and get them better faster. Since I am not an expert on UK medical treatment, I cannot evaluate this claim. Maybe my friend Mark Gibson, an attorney in the San Francisco area who is from England, will stop by and comment on that.
But, for a minute, we can pretend that they will treat people faster. Getting medical care quickly can help you recover more quickly. I agree with that. But, there are some interesting issues that come up here. I will address them in the order I thought of them:
- What happens if you still have to file a lawsuit? Your treating doctor is now being paid by the defendant’s insurance company. That does not sound good.
- What happens if you need a referral? They are only treating soft tissue cases right now, but some cases that start out as soft tissue turn into more serious injuries. What happens then?
- What happens if they will not give you the treatment you need? You now face a longer delay in getting in to your regular doctor.
- Are they putting cost savings ahead of treating injured people? This could cause some serious ethical concerns.
I am all in favor of getting people quick, necessary treatment. But when the insurance company starts to try to dictate that treatment, serious questions need to be asked. This is something we should keep our eyes on.